A lesbian couple in Oklahoma, who have not been permitted to file their marriage certificate with the Cherokee Nation, said Wednesday they deserve the same legal rights given to straight couples. Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds said they will sue if the tribe does not lift a moratorium on same-sex marriages put in place a day after they received their marriage license application.
The Cherokee women were married Tuesday in a Cherokee ceremony at Mohawk Park in Tulsa, but the Cherokee Nation court clerk would not record the marriage amid a tribal dispute over same-sex marriages. The Cherokee couple received their license application from the court Thursday. The next day Darrell Dowty, chief justice of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal, ordered a moratorium on applications for same-sex couples.
"They issued it; now honor it," said McKinley, 32. "We are their people, and they shunned us. It's hard enough that we are shunned by everyone in Oklahoma, but to be shunned by our own people..."
Cherokee law states "every person" age 18 or older can be married, except those with a living husband or wife, those who are nearer of kin than first cousins, and those who are insane or idiotic. "If I was a man, we wouldn't be having this trouble," McKinley said. Cherokee principal chief Chad Smith and general counsel Julian Fite have both said they consider the tribe's definition of marriage to be a union between one man and one woman. The tribunal has not set a time to consider the matter.
The state of Oklahoma does not recognize marriages for same-sex couples but does honor marriages recorded by the Cherokees. State voters will decide in November whether to amend the state constitution to strengthen the ban on gay marriage. McKinley and Reynolds say they can't afford to travel to Massachusetts, so they decided to have the marriage under Cherokee law.
"We should be able to get those rights right here in Oklahoma," said Reynolds, 27. The pair spoke at a news conference at Community of Hope United Church of Christ in Tulsa. The couple, who have been together for four years, share a residence. They said their wedding Tuesday was attended only by close friends and included Cherokee rituals, followed by a reception Tuesday night. "We'll do a honeymoon after this is all over," McKinley said.